Love The One You’re With by Stephen Stills (Atlantic, 1971)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were a folk supergroup sensation in the late 60s/early 70s, with 4 distinct personalities, destined to split he band apart. Personalities? I meant egos. Neil Young had to leave and start his Hall of Fame career and create music for the guys in Pearl Jam to grow up to. Graham Nash, having played with The Hollies, then CSN, decided to conquer another lucrative profession: collecting photographs [that’s not a joke…look it up] David Crosby decided to move on to keeping many Mexican drug cartels in business and fathering a lesbian couple’s child..or two. And then there was Stephen Stills.

Wow, the ego on this guy, writing a song about free love and putting into the mainstream. There’s nothing wrong with loving the one you’re with, except that Stephen suggests, nay, says you should IF you can’t be with the one you love. But if you can be with the one you love, who do you love then? This theory was later put into use in the 80s as the Sam Malone technique. But I guess the chics fell for it. Was this really the way a lot of people felt back then? Was free love more of a fantasy that’s grown into a mythic memory rather than a reality? Or was it that the drugs made everyone really horny?

Either way, Stephen’s song owes a lot of it’s success due to its sing-song quality. You can imagine folks sitting around a campfire singing along at least on the chorus. [Let’s hope no one broke this out during Boy Scout sleepovers or Church retreats.] And that’s quite a feat considering that the lyrics are sung like they were made up on the spot.

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slip away
Cause your baby is so far away.

Basically Stephen knows you’re tripping, stoned, whatever and he’s laying the groundwork for your cheating excuse.

Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with

This is the lyrical equivalent to a smokescreen. Such as, when you do get caught cheating, you just go ‘Baby there’s a rose in a fisted glove…the man is bringing us down.’

Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
Don’t sit cryin’ over good things you’ve had,
There’s a girl right next to you
And she’s just waiting for something you do.

But please don’t offer to talk with her or watch TV or even play Boggle. Nope, just screw her. She’s waiting. Come on, you got the Stills stamp of approval.

Turn your heartache right into joy

Extra points, if her name is Joy

She’s a girl, you’re a boy.
Get it together, make it nice.
Ain’t gonna need anymore advice.

So if you’re feeling down and you’re bored, take a look to your left, grab the first female you see and get it on. So saith, Lord of Love, Sir Stephen Stills. By the way, stay away from daughter. And watch out for that fisted glove…..

Leave a comment


  1. Another great post. I always that thought this song had a ‘Long Train Running’-era Doobie Brothers feel about it. PS

  2. I always thought this catchy tune had more of a Graham Nash feel to it, but I doubt Graham would have written those lyrics!

  3. W.B.

     /  April 5, 2015

    The main chorus line was supposedly suggested to Stills by Billy Preston. But that basic line (“If you can’t be with the one you love, honey / Love the one you’re with”) appears to have been ripped off from the chorus of the E.Y. Harburg/Burton Lane composition “When I’m Not Near The Girl I Love” from the late 1940’s Broadway musical (later made into a movie in 1968), “Finian’s Rainbow.”

    But evidently, there were enough people swayed by Stills’ gospel to do their own covers. Namely, The Isley Brothers.


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